The story that won't be told in the wake of Harvey's wrath is the incredible risk to the thousands upon thousands of items of physical evidence being stored in police departments and crime laboratories throughout Texas - especially in Houston. Any damage to this evidence may derail the state's pursuit of justice.
Shrinking travel budgets and the availability of online training have conspired against today's professional associations, the typical first-victims of operational austerity. Public institutions eager to appease their elected leaders are especially quick to freeze travel during challenging economic times. This, however, may be a grave mistake. Why? Because there are hidden, undisclosed benefits to membership associations that are worthy not only of discussion, but of careful consideration by corporate and governmental executives trying to save a buck.
The National Commission on Forensic Science was dissolved by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a decisive action that brought an end to a highly decorated body of professionals, but one that was frequently stymied by legal gamesmanship and discord. The commission, a precipitant of the Obama administration's criminal justice reform efforts, was curiously loaded with trial attorneys, law professors, and other academicians but relatively few forensic scientists.
An expert witness is a person authorized by a judge to share professional opinions in a court of law about subjects in which the expert was found to be sufficiently knowledgeable and competent.
During criminal or civil litigation, the permission granted to expert witnesses to give their opinions about topics of interest (DNA, fingerprints, accounting, ballistics, engineering, toxicology, and so forth) gives them considerable power and influence in the courtroom as compared to other kinds of witnesses.
Our nation once again celebrates its unique capacity to transfer leadership with grace and dignity. The joyousness of the occasion, however, quickly fades into solemnity as citizens and institutions alike assume their vigil, standing guard to keep watchful eyes on those in positions of power.
Keeping the Gate is a "science and society" blog, which is to mean that it explores the relationship between science and society. Journalists and producers play critical roles in regulating that relationship. But the definition of journalism is changing as more and more people with compelling interests gain access to more and more channels through which to spin personal sentiments into the appearance of irrefutable fact.